November 14, 2008

Moot Court Day: a vlog.



Here's the U.S. Supreme Court case I talk about: Ableman v. Booth.

UPDATE: In the vlog, I say, "I think it's from all over the country," but I think wrong. It's the intra-law-school contest. Photos of the courtroom soon. The problem involved the 5th and 6th amendment rights to counsel and had some complicated material about dual sovereignty. The criminal procedural part of constitutional law isn't something I teach -- except to the extent that it intersects with Federal Jurisdiction -- so it was tricky getting up to speed on the doctrine. I needed to read Texas v. Cobb, a case about a terrible double murder:
After a short time, respondent confessed to murdering both Margaret and Kori Rae. Respondent explained that when Margaret confronted him as he was attempting to remove the Owings’ stereo, he stabbed her in the stomach with a knife he was carrying. Respondent told police that he dragged her body to a wooded area a few hundred yards from the house. Respondent then stated:

“I went back to her house and I saw the baby laying on its bed. I took the baby out there and it was sleeping the whole time. I laid the baby down on the ground four or five feet away from its mother. I went back to my house and got a flat edge shovel. That’s all I could find. Then I went back over to where they were and I started digging a hole between them. After I got the hole dug, the baby was awake. It started going toward its mom and it fell in the hole. I put the lady in the hole and I covered them up. I remember stabbing a different knife I had in the ground where they were. I was crying right then.”
ADDED: I see that an episode of "Law and Order" was based on the Cobb case, with Ludacris playing the role of the murderer:
"Look, I'm guilty of murder here, so I'm not going to make any excuses," Ludacris starts. "I stabbed her with my knife, and then I killed her baby. ... I dug a hole and buried them, and there's where they've been for the last three years. Should I write it down now?"

His confession is so cold, so matter-of-fact, you might get chills...
Ah, but see? They toned down the facts. What really happened was too terrible to use in a fictionalized story. It's too maudlin.

If you want to know if Cobb was executed, the answer is no:
Following an order from the U.S. Supreme Court, Gov. Rick Perry [on June 22, 2005] issued 28 commutations that will require death row inmates who were 17 at the time they committed their crimes to serve life in prison...

"While these individuals were convicted by juries of brutal murders and sentenced to die for their heinous crimes, I have no choice but to commute these sentences to life in prison as a result of the Supreme Court ruling," Perry said.

The inmates with commuted sentences are: ... Raymond Levi Cobb...

30 comments:

veni vidi vici said...

haven't watched the video, but that still shot is strong evidence that you know more than most about the tasteful application of make-up. Looks terrific!

Lawgiver said...

Why does looking at Ann in this vlog remind me of Sarah Palin?

Quayle said...

Do you ever actualy go to the law school, or do you just hang around your home and phone in your lectures?

Donn said...

Some cleavage would help this vlog immensely!

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

With regard to Althouse's reference to the benefits of federalism and a multivocal judiciary for enforcement of individual rights, readers should compare Ann Althouse, Saying What Rights Are, In and Out of Context, 1991 Wis. L. Rev. 929, with William Brennan, State Constitutions and the Protection of Individual Rights, 90 Harv. L. Rev. 489 (1977).

MadisonMan said...

How many WI moot court participants wind up in the Wisconsin Law School?

MadisonMan said...

Oops, sorry Marquette, end up in a Wisconsin law school.

Simon said...

Wonder if they're going to have the whole thing recorded, if the question's interesting.

AlphaLiberal said...

I'll bet that's interesting.

I think the gross miscarriage of justice in the Siegelman case that now even TIME magazine is reporting on is also interesting.

* Partisan prosecution.
* Prosecution sharing notes with jurors.
* Romantic affair with a juror and FBI agent on the case.

Shades of Georgia Thompson!

Richard Dolan said...

I'm not sure what the moot court exercise is about (perhaps some federalism or Full Faith and Credit point, but surely not the Fugitive Slave Law). It was interesting to see the bit where the SCOTUS was quoting Wisconsin law to the Wisconsin Supremes. Don't see that often, and the last time I recall seeing something like it was in the Bush v. Gore cases about the Florida recount.

Whatever the moot court problem may be, the Abelman case presents a nice picture of what a country coming apart at the seams looks when described in the dry tones typical of the judicial perspective.

I especially liked this bit: "It is, of itself, a sufficient and conclusive answer, for no one will suppose that a Government which has now lasted nearly seventy years, enforcing its laws by its own tribunals and preserving the union of the States, could have lasted a single year, or fulfilled the high trusts committed to it, if offences against its laws could not have been punished without the consent of the State in which the culprit was found."

CJ Taney had no clue what was going on around him (not blamimg, just observing), and in hindsight the "preserving" half of his enforcing/preserving duo was delusional in context. The Court criticized the Wisconsin state courts for exceeding their jurisdiction and issuing serial habeas relief to an indicted and then convicted federal prisoner based on their conclusion that the Fugitive Slave Law was unconstitutional. But only a few years later, Taney's court would issue the Dred Scott decision, striking down as unconstitutional other parts of the futile effort to find a juridical compromise on slavery in a half free/half slave country. After Dred Scott, any hope of avoiding the war was gone.

There was, perhaps, nothing Taney or the courts could have done to avoid the coming conflict. But what they did do was more harmful than not, and tarnished the SCOTUS as an institution for a long time.

Ann Althouse said...

The moot court problem has nothing to do with the historical case I discuss in the vlog.

Simon said...

Richard Dolan said...
"Don't see that often, and the last time I recall seeing something like it was in the Bush v. Gore cases about the Florida recount."

Yep - the approach of Rehnquist's concurrence required him to take a look at the state statute to determine if the state courts' construction was out of bounds. Happened in some early civil rights era cases, too (examples op. cit).

Chip Ahoy said...

Boy, that Nikon D-50 is bigger than I imagined. Not the sort of thing you just slip into a purse. On walks, does it hang from a shoulder strap, or carried in a backpack or what?

Trooper York said...

Legal posts are boring.

Maxine Weiss said...

Flask on the dresser; wood beam on the ceiling reflected through the flimsy dresser mirror; hardwood floors still haven't been stained and shellacked; junk cluttering up the top of a shelf that hasn't been stained and glazed either; stark white walls sans textured wallpaper; and plaques and bric-a-brac hung directly on walls instead of showcased on a tall shelf ?

The smoke detector on the hall corridor ceiling is jaunty, but a decorative light fixture or small chandelier would work better.

Sweeping drapery, lush greenery in oversize planters, sculpture and pottery ???

Nowhere to be seen in Professor Althouse abode.

Simon said...

Trooper, let me give you a taste of the case I'm reading and we'll see how it rates on your boredom-ometer. Here's the first paragraph:

"The question [in this case] is whether want of a federal cause of action to try claims of title to land obtained at a federal tax sale precludes removal to federal court of a state action with non-diverse parties raising a disputed issue of federal title law. We answer no, and hold that the national interest in providing a federal forum for federal tax litigation is sufficiently substantial to support the exercise of federal question jurisdiction over the disputed issue on removal, which would not distort any division of labor between the state and federal courts, provided or assumed by Congress."

Now, by comparison to that, doesn't Ann's post seem to have much more va va voom?

Trooper York said...

You are right Simon, I just got wood. Thanks.

Lawgiver said...

Wood? Did you say wood? In Mexico every man has the RIGHT to be happy. Free government issued viagra for all men over 70! Wood is a right!

Trooper York said...

Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
Oh, that's the Woody Woodpecker song
Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
Yeah, he's a-peckin' it all day long

He pecks a few holes in a tree to see
If a redwood's really red
And it's nothing to him, on the tiniest whim
To peck a few holes in your head

Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
Oh, that's the Woody Woodpecker's tune
Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
Makes the other woodpeckers swoon

Though it doesn't make sense to the dull and the dense
And the lady woodpeckers long for
Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
That's the Woody Woodpecker song

Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
Woody Woodpecker's serenade
Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
On the woodpecker hit parade

Though he can't sing a note, there's a frog in his throat
All his top notes come out blurred
He's the ladies' first choice, with a laugh in his voice
He gives all his rivals the bird

Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
He'll be settlin' down some day
Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
He'll be hearin' the preacher say

For the rest of your life you'll be Woody and wife
And the choir will sing along with
Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
The Woody Woodpecker song

(Kay Kaiser, The Woody Woodpecker song, look out for splinters)

Trooper York said...

"Yeah, he's a-peckin' it all day long"

br549 said...

The perp who murdered the woman and the baby...he was put to death I hope.....

Ann Althouse said...

br549, see the update on the post.

Simon said...

"Following an order from the U.S. Supreme Court, Gov. Rick Perry [on June 22, 2005] issued 28 commutations that will require death row inmates who were 17 at the time they committed their crimes to serve life in prison..."

Presumably in response to the Roper decision, which illustrates the argument for not dilly-dallying around with death row. The longer you put it off, the more chance there is that the Supreme Court is going to invent a new excuse why the states can't put to death someone who performed an atrocious crime despite undisputed guilt.

Simon said...

I mean, I've said before - comments passim - that I'm against the death penalty, but only on evidentiary grounds. Where the defendant's guilt is undisputed, my concerns drop out of the picture. In light of the Cobb case, there aren't even any procedural irregularities whose deterrence might provide a countervailing force to place on the balance (cf. Herring v. United States, 492 F.3d 1212 (11th Cir. 2007), cert granted 552 U.S. __).

Revenant said...

I've said before - comments passim - that I'm against the death penalty, but only on evidentiary grounds. Where the defendant's guilt is undisputed, my concerns drop out of the picture.

Yeah, that's exactly my position as well.

twinotter said...

Thank you so much for your help today. Your questions helped keep our competitors on their toes. Yes, this competition was for 2L students and completely internal to the Law School. The Wisconsin Law School does run a national competition that draws people from all over the country - this school year it will be in March.

Thanks,
Rudy

Simon said...

Rudy,
Consider this an introduction to a hot bench. ;)

blogless said...

I've said before - comments passim - that I'm against the death penalty, but only on evidentiary grounds. Where the defendant's guilt is undisputed, my concerns drop out of the picture.

I'm against the death penalty too, but not because of this. To put it simply, the system is never going to be perfect, and I think it's just as onerous putting someone in prison the rest of their life as it is putting them to death. (And in fact, many prisoners vastly prefer getting the DP because it enables them to continue their appeals for free, whereas LWOP defendants are basically thrown into prison and forgotten.)

So I don't think we should decide whether or not any penalty is wrong because we could have made a mistake - because we're never going to always get it right. (I don't think I'm explaning this well...)

Plus, when you get right down to it, "undisputed guilt" is a tricky concept.

I am against the DP because I don't think the State should be killing people. I can understand the victim's family wanting vengeance, but the State's should be dispassionate. As long as there is LWOP (life without possibility of parole), we are protected.

Simon said...

blogless, I can't agree with that. In a state of nature, every person has a natural right to justice - to balance the scales when wronged. That's impractical in large, complex societies, so individuals enter into a social contract: they assign their claims for justice to the state, which not only achieves numerous efficiencies in handling those claims, it manages and mediates between competing claims. Nevertheless, if the state is unable or unwilling to hold up its end of the bargain, people rightly begin to question whether they should leave their claims with the state. That is, on average, justice must be done in the majority of cases, otherwise the state forfeits its moral right to deny private individuals the opportunity to seek justice under their own steam. That's a bad result for any number of reasons. It seems in the interest of individuals, society and the state for the state to efficiently handle questions of justice.